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Notebook

Notebook, 1993-

ANCIENT GREEK CULTURE

[From: Kyriazis, Constantine D. Eternal Greece. Translated by Harry T. Hionides. A Chat Publication.]

Between History and
Legend - The Trojan War

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The Trojan War was fought by the Greeks and Trojans and lasted for ten years between 1194 and 1184 B.C. The historian Herodotus and Thucydides believed that the war had in fact taken place. But modern historians until the remarkable discovery by Schliemann [1870-1890] of the walls of Troy, believed that it was a product of the imagination of the Greek and Latin poets. The Discovery of the remains of Troy VII by the archeologist indicated without a doubt that the city in fact had been destroyed by a terrible conflagration resulting form enemy conquest. Thus the Trojan War is no longer a fancy but an historical event of major importance. It was actually a harshly fought war between the Achaeans or Achawans and Aeolians on the one hand, and the Dardanians, on the other, when the former hoped to colonize the coasts of Asia Minor.

According to the myth, the cause of the war was the abduction of Helen, wife of Menelaus the king of Sparta, by Paris, son of Priam, King of Troy. To avenge the insult, the Achaeans [Greeks] assembled at Aulis and under the supreme leadership of Agamemnon, King of Mycenae, they set sail for Troy, but only after Agamemnon had sacrificed his daughter Iphigenia at Aulis to obtain a favourable wind. 1186 ships carrying some 120,000 men set off to bring Helen back or to conquer Troy if the Trojans refused to surrender the wife of Menelaus. The Achaeans landed in Asia Minor in the course of which Protesilaos became the first casualty of the expedition. The Trojans rejected the demands of the Achaeans to return Helen and hostilities resulted. On the Greek side the heroes who distinguished themselves were Achilles, Odysseus, the two Ajaxes, Diomedes, Nestor, Neoptolemus, Menelaus, Agamemnon, Palamedes, Philoctetes, and Patroclus. On the side of the Trojans Hector stands out together with the leaders of their allies who included the Lycians, Mysians, Pelasgians, Phrygians, Cicones, Paphlagons, Carians, Thracians, and others. In the course of the ten-year war many of the heroes perished including Achilles, Patroclus, and Hector, but the Greeks were able by a ruse to capture the city. They built a huge wooden horse within which were hidden a number of Greek warriors. Then the Greeks set sail in their ships and departed. Despite the warnings of Cassandra and Laocoon, the Trojans dragged the horse into the city and because of its size tore down part of the walls to accommodate it. At nightfall, the hidden warriors emerged, opened wide the gates of Troy through which the Greek forces entered, having secretly returned with their ships. Troy was then subjected to the fate awaiting all sacked cities at the time, for it was put to flames, and those inhabitants who were not massacred became the slaves and servants of the victors.

So the Trojan War did in fact take place. The remains of Troy and various other discoveries of this century by archeologists have confirmed the fact. The palace of Nestor at Pylos is yet additional evidence that Homer described events that had a historical foundation. But the blind poet did not limit himself to the struggle of the Achaeans before the walls of Troy. He added much of his own embellishments to the story. He used mythological personalities and the primitive myths with monsters and human sacrifice and converted these into events full of feeling and humanity. Concerning Achilles, for example, many scholars believe that according to the customs of the day, he should have cut the body of his enemy Hector into pieces. But Homer describes it differently, He allows Achilles to drag the body of his vanquished foe in all its nakedness from behind his chariot round the walls of Troy. And when the aged father of the dead hero, Priam, comes to seek his body, he surrenders it for burial. No character in Homer, however humble or insignificant in stature, ceases to be a fully integrated personality. Shepherds, nurses, guards, all have something to say, something to convey. Nor does the great bard omit the deities from his verse. He places most of them on a lofty pedestal and makes example of them for mortals to imitate. Ares is the only god he does not particularly praise. But his can be easily understood, for he was the deity of crude violence and as such was not wholly acceptable to the Greeks. And Homer, it should be remembered, describes an age which was distantly past, some five hundred years before his time, but with criteria that existed when he lived, in an age that was more advanced and refined. [pp. 98-99]

[Kyriazis, Constantine D. Eternal Greece. Translated by Harry T. Hionides. A Chat Publication.]




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